On my way to the funeral chapel in Port Jefferson Station, to pay respects to the Hartnett family, I realized that I did not know and had never met Edward Stephen Hartnett. His son Stephen Hartnett is the general manager of The Hamlet. He is a fine young man and he is probably the best manager our community has ever employed.
As I quietly entered the chapel, a military service was being performed. About 30 men - 15 on each side of the room - wearing garrison caps were standing at attention, facing the open casket with their right hands at salute. All were over 60 and the median age was about 75.
The stars and stripes of the American flag were visible as the sergeant spoke a few words about his fallen comrade. Edward S. Hartnett was the past commander of this chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (4707). He was obviously loved and respected by his compatriots.
Next, the chaplain offered a stirring eulogy, during which the veterans removed their caps. The speech focused on the passing of "one of our brothers who had served his country." As he spoke I felt I was getting to know Edward Hartnett better. He was an American patriot and very proud of that fact.
The service was concluded by the bugle's playing Taps. Taps always makes me choke up and it was no different on this night.
After the services, I paid my respects to the Hartnett family. I was introduced to Gertrude Hartnett, wife and mother, who was married to Edward for 56 years. His five children were Trudy, Edward, Katherine, Richard and Stephen. They were a family to be proud of.
I learned that Hartnett was stationed in Iran (before it got popular) in World War II. Memorial Day was very important to him and he was proud to be buried at Calverton National Cemetery.
The military has been much maligned in the 1960s and 1970s. When the draft was abolished by President Nixon, the U.S. Army became a volunteer army.
No longer would young men face the prospects of two years of military service. Leaving home and maturing today is done at colleges and universities. It is not quite the same.
Personally, I felt I benefited greatly from my two years of service. Most of my boyhood pals were better for their stay in the military.
It has lately become too easy to denigrate the patriotism and service of your country. When our country is threatened, and when injustices occur, we look for help to our men and women in uniform. We should be proud of patriotic and loyal members of the armed forces.
I left the chapel in Port Jefferson Station, knowing more about Mr. Hartnett. I am sorry I never shook his hand and shared a beverage with him.
The touching military service performed by his friends and buddies was a true example of patriotic respect for country and flag, and it sent a patriotic chill up my spine.